How Can I Pay for College?

If you have been following the news about the cost of higher education, you will have noticed that the news is pretty bad. The cost of college is still rising much faster than the overall rate of inflation.

Moreover, with government cut-backs, schools are struggling to find the resources that they used to enjoy from state and federal government sources. In many cases, that means even higher fees and tuition.

So if you are low on cash, how can you afford to go to the college of your dreams? These tips should help you manage your costs.

Tip 1: Use Your Free Money First

You do not have to be a straight-A student to land big scholarships. In fact, unless it is a purely academic scholarship, your grades often will not matter. Even if you are only a C+ student, there is probably a scholarship for you.

You will need to do a lot of scholarship research on your own and the Internet is a great way to get started. Check out free scholarship sources on websites such as ScholarshipHunter.com, FastWeb, College Board, Wiredscholar.com and ScholarshipCoach.com. Also, be sure to avoid any websites that charge you fees in order to perform a scholarship search.

Beyond scholarships, there are other free sources of financial aid. In order to get access to free money sources like state and federal grants, you will need to complete the FAFSA at www.fafsa.ed.gov. The information you provide on the FAFSA will be used by individual colleges and universities to determine how much (and what types) of financial aid you are eligible to receive.

Tip 2. Move Up Your Graduation Date

Accelerated classes can be a good option for certain students. With these courses you may be able to pack a semester worth of coursework into a six-week session. These classes can be intense, but they can also help to move up your graduation date. And if you can do that, it will cost you less money overall. Talk to the individual department that oversees your major for more details.

Tip 3. Attend an Inexpensive School, Then Transfer

Did you know that credits earned at a less-expensive college or university can be transferred and applied toward your degree? By attending a community college for example, you may be able to earn a prestigious degree for a fraction of the price.

Being a third-year transfer student may help you to save you some big money. Just make sure that you work closely with the less-expensive school to make sure that all of your credits are transferable. You do not want to be stuck with credits that cannot be transferred to your preferred school.

Tip 4. Get In Where You Fit In

While some schools are overcrowded and students are fighting to get in, other schools are struggling to find the students they want. So be sure to look at all your options when considering a college or university.

If you are a star student, some smaller or lesser-known schools may award you with deep discounts to encourage you to attend. If the school really wants you to attend, their financial aid office will work hard to find the financial aid you need.

So what you need to do is find the college that is looking for students like yoUniversity Review many college guides. Do your grades and SAT scores exceed the average of the current student body? Does the school offer the courses you need for your major?

A good rule of thumb is that you should try to get into schools where your grades and SAT or ACT scores put you into the top 25 percent of the incoming freshmen class. This will make your application more attractive to the admissions office and may help you to secure financial aid.

Tip 5. Consider Attending a Tuition-Free College

Yes, there is such a thing as colleges and universities that charge no tuition. Some of these unique schools require students to work a certain number of hours a week on campus or in jobs related to their major. This offsets the cost of attendance.

Colleges that charge no tuition include: Berea College in Kentucky., College of the Ozarks in Missouri, The Cooper Union in New York, Webb Institute in New York, and Alice Lloyd College in Kentucky.

Tip 6. Student Loans are Not the End of the World

If you absolutely need to borrow money to attend school, look at the federal student loans offered by the federal government. Federal loans include the Perkins Loan offered by schools, and Stafford and PLUS Loans offered by banks and through the Department of Education. These loans come with fixed rates and flexible repayment options. But although these loans are affordable, it is always important not to borrow more than you can comfortably repay. If you need more information, talk directly with the financial aid office at your school.

Tip 7. Look for Student Loan Forgiveness Programs
 
You may be able to wipe away a lot of your education debt simply by getting involved with the right program after graduation.

In some cases, college graduates can cancel some or all of their federal student loan debt by working in public service jobs or by volunteering. Loan-forgiveness programs are sometimes available to teachers, nurses, doctors, lawyers as well as Peace Corps volunteers.

Before you graduate, ask your college for more information about teaching in a low-income school district. And if you are in a health profession field, ask about the National Health Service Corps. They offer loan forgiveness programs to new doctors, nurses, dentists, and a wide range of other health professionals.

And if even if you are not going into teaching or health care, you may be eligible to volunteer for the Peace Corps, Americorps, or Volunteers in Service to America. These organizations also offer money that can be applied to your student loan debt.